Tuesday, November 8, 2011

10,000 kilometres

Very special day today - it's the 10,000 kilometre party for my Canyon racing bike - my faithful, utterly reliable and totally uncomplaining partner. That's 10K accumulated since it took to the road for the first time a year ago in the Spring. Nearly all the mileage has been in the high mountains and that makes quite a difference considering how rough the roads are. The bike is great quality and has stood up to it well. Probably better than I have!  

Second time in a row my training has been interrupted by big cows with big sharp horns occupying the road. It's that time of year when the cattle are brought down from the high Alpine pastures. I did get a bit nervous when the bull went past me with only about 2 feet of air separating us - those beasts are massive!

The dramatic clouds give an idea of how wild the weather is - but it is unseasonally warm at the moment. Last year the temperature plummeted on the 12th of November and stayed there for several months - so we'll see what happens next.

The training went well with the wind acting as a hard task master.  It's a foehn wind - which means that although the wind in our valley is coming from the East the air mass is warm and coming from the South. It has dumped almost 2 metres of snow on the Glacier at Val d Isère but nothing lower down the valley.

Each day on the bike there is something to learn. It's the first time I've actually enjoyed riding this bike in the wind and found it adding to the fun instead of being scary. It's taken 10,000 km on this ultra-light high performance machine to get to this point - so that it no longer feels like a wild stallion trying to throw me off when the wind gets up. I found it terrifying to begin with in the wind but now I love it. 

I've realised that I have to align my leg even more before pushing on the pedal (just like standing on a ski) - getting the bottom over to the opposite side of the bike (that's what it feels like). There is a distinct point where this gets the pressure on the ball of the foot. The movement across is much greater than I would have expected. It's a bit like swimming the crawl where the rotation is much greater than you expect if you are a die hard breaststroke swimmer. The effect of this motion when standing on the pedals is wonderful because it enhances the power of the pulling up as well. It makes it great fun to stand up and attack in a big gear. You can put your whole body into it. Feeling the pressure clearly on the ball of the foot helps to remind you to keep the foot muscles active and prevent the ankle from flexing under pressure - acting like a "power sponge". This is exactly the same as in downhill skiing - where the ankle needs to be extended (or extending) to stand strongly on the ball of the foot  - not flexed.

Decided to check my Zefal CO2 system which was mounted on a bracket next to a water bottle. I'd used "screw glue" to hold it on properly after losing two units already on the road. It has remained like this now for a couple of months - never having had a puncture I haven't touched it. To my horror it was impossible to remove the device with bare hands - I had to get pliers to do the job. Fat lot of use that would have been out in the wilds or during a race. Eventually after getting it off I discovered the entire unit was so heavily corroded that it was inoperable. The Zefal Air Control device is tiny and made out of aluminium - but it isn't anodised and simply rots both inside and outside rendering it useless. Using tools I opened the valve (as should be normally possible by hand) then dismantled it and cleaned it up thoroughly. Even the O ring in the interior was incorrectly seated. There was nothing functional at all with this device. Thank goodness that the tyres are phenomenal and I'm still on the original tyres which are only briefly removed for races - they have 9,000km without any punctures! (Continental 4000S) I greased the Air Control unit inside and outside and put it back together - greasing even the plastic protection cap and all the gaps that water could get in. Prior to that I checked that the mechanism was controlling air flow correctly by blowing through it. This time is shouldn't corrode again and I know it will work if ever it is needed! Part of the problem is water coming up from the front wheel so I've removed the bracket and placed the unit on the seat post where I had it before.

I tried Mark III of my ISBM (Improvised Smartphone Bike Mount) which was a lighter weight strip of inner tube cut and glued all properly and correctly - but it almost lost me the phone so I'm back to Mark II which worked perfectly and I'll stick with that. It needs the full "double" thickness of the inner tube to give the right tension and security for violent potholes in the road. Plus it's simpler - one section of inner tube tied in a granny knot and trimmed - plus one tiny carabiner to hold it together as explained 3 posts back.

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